Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis) is sometimes called Judas tree. Legend has it that the betrayer of Jesus Christ hanged himself from a redbud, and its flowers turned pink from shame. Regardless, Eastern redbud is a hardy ornamental that is one of the earliest spring bloomers. Blossoms line its branches before leaves appear, giving it a graceful and colourful appearance. Flowers are followed by seeds in summer, which ripen in pods and then drop to the ground. Seedlings pop up in driveway cracks and in the lawn the following spring.
Seed Size and Appearance
Pull a seed pod off a branch. They look very much like flattened pea pods, and are about the same size. Green in the summer, they turn reddish-brown and brittle as the seeds ripen inside. Break one open and five to seven seeds will fall into your palm. Redbud seeds are small, dark brown and extremely hard.
Watch what happens if you leave the pods on the redbud tree. They naturally burst open when humidity levels drop in the fall. Birds eat them and disperse them further in their droppings. Because the redbud produces so many pods and seeds, enough will survive to sprout in the spring. If you want to plant some yourself, pick a few pods after they are ripe but before they burst open.
Seed Germination Requirements
Store the redbud seeds in a plastic bag of moist, soilless potting mix in the crisper of your refrigerator until early spring. This period of cold stratification is meant to mimic outdoor conditions. You're actually tricking the redbud seed into dormancy for the winter. Check the seeds periodically and keep them from dehydrating during cold stratification. Plant the seeds in a flowerpot in early April. Keep them warm and moist, and the redbud seeds come out of their dormant state and sprout.